The New York Islanders host the Buffalo Sabres in their final game before the holiday break. This game will mark the first time former Isles winger Kyle Okposo returns to face his former team at Barclays Center. The Islanders drafted Okposo in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and he remained a part of the team until signing a free-agent deal with Buffalo this past summer.
Okposo assisted on the game-winning overtime goal on December 16 when the Sabres edged the Isles 3-2 in Buffalo in the only previous meeting of the season between these two teams.
The Islanders last played on Tuesday night when they beat the Bruins in Boston 4-2. That victory ended a five-game winless streak for the Isles (0-4-1). The Sabres were in action Thursday night, falling 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Even with last night’s loss, the Sabres are 2-1-2 in their last five contests.
The Islanders are going with Thomas Greiss in goal fresh off his outstanding performance in Boston while Buffalo will likely counter with Anders Nilsson.
Buffalo Sabres at New York Islanders
Barclays Center – 7:00 PM EST
Broadcast Channels – MSG-Plus, MSG-Buffalo
2016-17 Season Series: December 16 2016, Sabres 3, Islanders 2 (OT)
Buffalo Sabres – 12-12-8 – 32 points
Road Record: 5-5-5
Hot Players: Rasmus Ristolainen, Kyle Okposo, Evender Kane
Key Injuries: Cody McCormick, Tyler Ennis
Nick Foligno – Ryan O’Reilly – Sam Reinhart
Matt Moulson – Jack Eichel – Kyle Okposo
Evander Kane – Johann Larsson – Brian Gionta
Zemgus Girgensons – Derek Grant – Nicolas Deslauriers
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Dmitry Kulikov – Zach Bogosian
Josh Gorges – Cody Franson
New York Islanders – 12-14-6 – 30 points
Home Record: 9-7-4
Hot Players: Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Thomas Greiss
Key Injuries: Adam Pelech, Casey Cizikas
Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey
Andrew Ladd – Alan Quine – Jason Chimera
Shane Prince – Brock Nelson – Anthony Beauvillier
Nikolay Kulemin – Ryan Strome – Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy – Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey – Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan – Dennis Seidenberg
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap]Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma is one win short of 300 for his NHL career. The majority of his coaching wins came with the Penguins who he led to a Stanley Cup after taking over midway through the 2008-09 season. Bylsma was an assistent coach with the Islanders back in 2005-06.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap]Although Jack Eichel’s return to the lineup on November 29 his sparked the Buffralo offense, Bylsma benched the young phenom during a first-period power play last night against the Hurricanes. Eichel returned to the power play unit in the third period. Bylsma indicated he was trying to send his young star a message.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap]Anders Lee has been the Islanders most dangerous player over the last 14 games. The Edina, Minnesota, native has scored 11 goals and 14 points in his last 14 games. Lee has given the Islanders a consistent offensive threat other than John Tavares.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap]John Tavares has enjoyed success against the Sabres with 11 goals and 22 points in 22 career games against Buffalo. Tavares was banged up and sat out a day of practice but is expected to be ready to play tonight. The Islanders signed and called up veteran forward Stephen Gionta as an insurance policy.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap]Special teams have a been a problem for the Islanders this season. The Sabres power play is ranked fourth in the league and the Isles 25th ranked penalty kill will have its hands full. The Islanders will try to take advantage of Buffalo’s penalty kill which is next to last in the league. The Islanders power play is ranked 28th in the league.
The Islanders would love to enter the holiday break on a positive note and pick up some momentum from Greiss’ strong performance in Boston. This will be an emotional return for Kyle Okposo and the former Islander will get a video tribute and a warm welcome from the fans. The Sabres have been inconsistent of late and played last night so the Isles should have an advantage there. This is a game the Islanders should be able to win, but Isles fans are aware with this team, nothing is a given.
Long time hockey writer and author of the new book, “Ice Wars: The Complete History of New York’s Greatest Modern Sports Rivalry.” It tells the story behind every game between the Rangers and Islanders dating back to 1972 and features profiles of more than 80 players from both teams and quotes from more than 50 exclusive interviews from players, coaches and broadcasters from both teams.